Posted September 08, 2015
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
These were the words of Jesus spoken to the Pharisees after they confronted Him because He healed a blind man on the Sabbath. Jesus utilizes shepherding imagery in this confrontation, which was a central part of the Jewish heritage and their understanding of God and who they were as a people. God was known to be their Shepherd (Psalm 23), and they were sheep of His pasture or fold. His intent was to provide a contrast between the shepherds of Israel (i.e. the Pharisees) and the Good Shepherd (Himself).
The Killing Shepherds
These shepherds that Jesus describes were no shepherds, but thieves disguised as shepherds. Life under the care of these thief-shepherds was marked not by joy and life, but rather the shepherds constantly taking from their sheep ultimately to the destruction of the ones under their “care.” It evokes some Old Testament imagery when God calls out the shepherds of Israel in Ezekiel 34 for feeding themselves from the sheep of the flock they were meant to be caring for, for not strengthening the weak ones, not healing the sick ones, not seeking out the straying ones, but ruled with harshness. These shepherds only steal, kill, and destroy.
The Dying Shepherd
On the other hand, a new shepherd comes on the scene. He sees and treats the sheep not the way the shepherds of Israel did but rather as a true shepherd. He comes as a fulfillment of the promise of God in Ezekiel 34:11-16 to seek out the sheep Himself and care for them. Out of His own goodness, His desire is to do them good! Not only did He come that they would have life, but the life He gives isn’t partial or conditional, but rather abundant and overflowing. It reminds us of the shepherd in Psalm 23 who fills our cup to overflowing! This is the Shepherd we had been looking for and longing for…
How does He give us this life? He tells us right after in verse 11: ”I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” What a shepherd we have! Not one who uses the sheep for selfish gain, but rather One who died as a sacrificial Lamb that we might be brought back to the fold of God. Do you want to know what the Father’s heart is? Look to the Good Shepherd who lays His life for His sheep.
At the end of the day, the truth is we are all sheep and we will be shepherded in this life by something or someone. Whose shepherding do you want to be under? Shepherds who steal, kill, and destroy, or the true and Good Shepherd who laid down His own life to give us life?
Devotional by Joel Limpic.
Song by Edbrooke Collective.
Mix by Dustin Peterson.
Artwork by Micah Schmiedeskamp.